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Browning Range Bivouac, West Coast

Browning Range Biv. Photo: Rachel Grooby
Total Ascent
Car park to Grassy Flats Hut, 4-5hr; Grassy Flats Hut to Browning Range Bivouac, 2-2.5hr
Grassy Flat Hut ($5, 10 bunks), Browning Range Biv (free, two bunks)
Kokatahi/Lake Kaniere Circuit Road, car park on Dorothy Falls Road

The Styx River on the West Coast boasts a population of the only duck in the world hard-core enough to spend its days surfing turbulent white water in its search for food. It’s also home to a route that puts the masochism back into ridge climbing.

Lathrop Saddle lies in the Browning Range. Most trampers completing the iconic Three Passes Route will have skirted around this range on their way to or from Harman Hut. For those wanting a shorter, albeit not much easier encounter with the area, a weekend spent exploring the valley is a great introduction to all the West Coast wilderness has to offer.

From the car park at Dorothy Falls Road, a crater-riddled 4WD track leads to the beginning of the track. The first stop is Grassy Flat Hut, reached on a well-worn trail with a few scrambly sections where the trail has eroded into the river. There’s been a lot of trapping in the area and native birds appear to be doing well.

The track eventually opens out at Grassy Flat where a few more water crossings lead to the well-maintained and attractive Grassy Flat Hut.The route is hard graft straight up the steep slope. There’s some boulder-hopping up a stream bed before diving into the bush for a walk that, in places, more closely resembled rock climbing. While the track has been lovingly maintained and is easy to follow, the gradient is a brutal workout for your legs.

A sign just 20m from the hut summed it up: ‘If you are just about buggered, you are just about there’.

If you still have some strength left in your legs, carry on to Lathrop Saddle another 400m higher, with two hours of very steep climbing on a poled route. Depending on the year, crampons may be needed. If you continue to Crawford Stream and beyond, a loop to Zit Saddle and Cedar Flats Hut is a nice four-day trip.

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